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Justices OK longer prison term in gun, drug crimes

WASHINGTON— The Supreme Court has upheld longer prison sentences for people convicted of carrying or using a gun while committing drug trafficking crimes.

The court voted 8-0 Monday to affirm lower court rulings involving defendants who had five years tacked onto their drug trafficking prison terms because they had a gun with them.

Some federal courts had decided that the additional five years could not be added onto related sentences for federal crimes.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court’s first opinion of the term. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case because of her work on it in the Justice Department before she joined the court.

The consolidated cases are Abbott v. U.S., 09-479, and Gould v. U.S., 09-7073.

In other action Monday, the court:

* Refused to hear an appeal by a patient advocate being investigated for possible conspiracy to obstruct justice. The justices also refused without comment to unseal a challenge by Siobhan Reynolds to a subpoena. Reynolds and her group, the Pain Relief Network, drew prosecutors’ attention for their involvement with a Kansas doctor and wife who illegally prescribed painkillers to dozens of patients who later died.

* Let stand the corruption conviction and three-year prison sentence of Robert Urciuoli, the former president and CEO of Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, R.I. Urciuoli was convicted of paying a state senator to do the hospital’s bidding at the Statehouse.

* Rejected the petition of Eddie James Pugh IV, one of three Louisiana residents convicted in 2009 for their roles in an abduction in New Orleans that ended in Mississippi with one man dead and another injured. Pugh, Barron Lecour Borden and Torenda A. Whitmore, all of New Orleans, are serving life terms. The high court denied Borden’s petition in October. Court records showed no pending petition from Whitmore.

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